The Traditional Values of Torosian

by David Schonauer

American Photo, January 1996

Michael Torosian believes in photo books. "Exhibitions are ephemeral," he says. "Books - fine books - serve photography best."

As the owner (and sole employee) of Lumiere Press in Toronto, Torosian is single-handedly doing all he can to make sure fine photo books don’t become relics of another era. One by painstaking one, he crafts magnificent editions that are prized by private and institutional investors alike.

This fall he is publishing his 13th volume, a limited -edition monograph on Lewis Hine that he printed on a Vandercook Universal One printing press ("the Ferrari of small presses," he says) in the basement of his house. He also cast his own lead type on an old Intertype machine and hand-sewed the bindings in his garage.

For Torosian, who started his career as a photographer and took up bookmaking in the late 70s, it's all an act of love. "To print an edition of 200 books requires 20,000 cranks of the press," he notes. "I take a lot of aspirin."

Torosian's largest edition numbered only 275; his smallest, 50. The volumes, inconceivably priced as low as $125, are printed on high-quality mould-made acid-free paper imported from Italy. Each also contains a gelatin-silver print (which Torosian makes himself from original or copy negatives) hand-tipped onto the frontispiece. "I can produce about one edition a year, so I'm not getting rich," he says. (He finances future books through sales of current books and has never had a government grant.) For Torosian, money isn't the point.

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